Langara seizes “hopportunity” to help BC’s craft beer industry

By the end of 2016, the number of craft breweries in BC is expected to reach at least 130. In a word, the craft brewing industry is booming, and so are the industries that support craft beer production.

Hops are now an economically important crop in the province. Hops are primarily used to give beer its characteristic aroma and bitterness. There are about 125 different varieties of hops. Each imparts a unique flavour to the beer being brewed.

Correctly identifying varieties of hops based on morphological characters alone can be difficult. An efficient and reliable DNA marker-based method is needed. This is essential if the craft beer industry is to continue offering a consistent, high-quality product.

Langara Biology instructor (and beer lover) Ji Yang is proposing a bioinformatics solution to the problem.

“With help from a student from Langara’s Student Work Assistance Program (SWAP), we are going to sequence the entire chloroplast genome of 10 popular varieties of hops,” Yang says.

“DNA samples will be run through a high-output, gene-sequencing machine. The goal is to use the results of that sequencing to find DNA markers that could distinguish the different varieties of hops.”